I was wandering around the Goulburn court house building reading signs with my daughter when my husband came back from the Information centre with a magazine with Goulburn attractions listed on it in his hand. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon in mid-April. Colourful leaves were lying all around the ground to remind us that the crazy cold weather is upon us and we don’t have much time left to enjoy nice autumn weather in Canberra and surrounding areas.
Goulburn is another small city located in NSW about an hour away from Canberra. It was a school holiday weekend day trip to forget the loneliness which we have brought upon ourselves by immigrating to Australia!
We had a nice lunch in the only decent club restaurant with good service we knew in Goulburn. I could notice how much better the customer service we received was every time we stopped in this small but old and apparently the first inland city in Australia.
Lunch was good, especially the fillet steak. It was tender and tasty. the best steak that I have had in Australia and a great reason to have lunch in Golbourn on that beautiful autumn day.
My husband had learnt about a historical site to visit and kill time.
I have always been interested in old places and the stories behind them and he was trying so hard to take control and please me.
I did not hesitate to let myself and my brain relax and let him be in charge!
He started our old white Maxima and drove towards our destination as we passed by the old railways and museum.
I looked eagerly at the old railways, wagons and buildings on the right side of the road and suggested that we have a look at them as well. He was obviously excited to show us his findings and proudly replied ” we will.”.
We soon arrived at the destination which was a property on the left side of the road with white fences and two entrance gates as far as we could see.
Following white fences, we reached the main gate of the property and turned left to enter with uncertainty.
Garroorigang Historic Home
Two middle-aged men holding plastic bags and looking like some sort of farmer were about to exit the property. They looked at us like they were expecting us long before we got there!
I lowered the window and asked them if the establishment was open for us to look around. They nodded and the younger-looking man said while smiling, “Yes, We thought you were here to pick us up.”.
I assumed they were talking about Uber so I laughed and replied, “Thanks and Sorry for disappointing you!”.
We drove through the dirt path and as soon as we turned left we could see two big old barn sheds standing on the right side of the property whilst the main building stood on the left end of the property.
We drove past the old sheds with high ceilings made of old wooden columns and metal sheets. There were two cars parked inside them “most probably belonged to staff”, I thought.
I could vividly imagine big, tall carriages parked there when these sheds were first built.
Outside the barn, on the left, there was a travel van parked under a tree. Like always, my husband was wandering where to park so I pointed at that parked car assuming it belonged to a visitor like us.
We left our car behind and walked towards the main building.
A nice mature looking man with a cowboy hat on was ridding a lawn mower, “Probably a staff member or a gardener”, I assumed.
He stopped his lawn mower and started walking toward us. “Hi, Are you here to visit the house?” he asked.
“Hi. Yes, if it is possible.” I replied.
“Where are you from?” he asked as he noticed our different accents.
“We are coming from Canberra but we are originally from Iran…Persia” my husband replied.
The man nodded as if he had already guessed where we were from. It was a great feeling to know that we didn’t have to answer a couple of questions which usually came after asking about our nationality and alongside a suspicious glare. It was always like we were responsible for educating an inquirer about Iranian history and culture within a couple of minutes. Not to mention cleaning its name from all stigma attached to it by the western media over the years.
We soon realized that he was the owner of the property. He was named Stuart and was living there with his wife!
We followed him to the entrance of the property as we passed an old white well pump in the middle of the yard in front of the building and soon stood on an old porch with dark green wooden columns and frames.
Museum or a Family Home
There were flyers on the roofed porch’s windows indicating ticket prices and services included.
Adults $15 (Pensioners $12)
Children 12-18 years $5
Children under 12 free
Stuart opened the porch door and called his wife while explaining to us that his wife would be our tour guide. Anna, a nice middle age lady with long blond dyed hair and a welcoming smile invited us inside.
We entered the porch which was redesigned like a foyer with a round table in the middle and small narrow glass displays like the ones in museums on the right side of the foyer. The displays were full of old porcelain pieces which were found in the garden over the years.
My daughter spotted the bowl full of small pomegranates on the table immediately. She loves pomegranates. “They are from our garden,” Anna said. “we just put them on the table for decoration, they are beautiful.”.
We paid for tickets and entered the long narrow hall on the right side of the porch near the glass display. She showed us the guest room she had prepared for her guests while explaining to us that not only was this a family home but also a bed and breakfast accommodation. She mentioned that she was welcoming a young guest couple that weekend.
We could hardly find any spot on the Walls without photos of the family or framed handicrafts made by Stuart’s mum. Anna pointed out an old photo of a gentleman on the narrow hallway wall near the main street entrance of the house. Underneath the photo was written “Hamilton Hume”, “He is Stuart’s ancestor” Anna said while expecting me to know the famous Australian explorer.
I was standing there clueless when she explained all about Stuart’s family tree and pointed out the rest of the photos on the wall.
I nodded politely and let her finish. Then, we walked to other rooms. It was some special day I think she said and therefore they had extra items like old porcelain family sets and clothes out on display as well. “It is amazing how they have preserved everything, in my country, people replace their old stuff with new stuff and give all the old ones away,” I said.
Anna agreed and said how people do the same in her birth country, Greece. “They have lots of extra space here in Australia,” she added.
“This is not the only reason for sure.” I was thinking while we were walking towards the drawing room.
The building was originally built as a teamsters inn in 1857. In 1862, the new owners of the house converted the bar and adjoining parlour into a classic Victorian drawing room. The drawing room was a rectangle almost 4 by 8 room having an old grand piano on the left side corner near the entrance. My eyes caught the photos of Stuart shaking hands with world leaders on the piano. In one of them, I could see him shaking hands with one of Iran’s unpopular presidents.
I just remembered he asked us about our background in our first encounter in the garden. “He might have recognized our familiar accent” I giggled inside.
Anna explained that Stuart Hume was an Australian ambassador to Iran from 1997 to 2001 and after that from 2001 to 2005 in Greece. It was then that she met him and they got married. They didn’t have any children of their own and I could specifically see how she was so nice and caring towards my teenage daughter who patiently followed us from one room to another.
I could also sense her longing for her family back in Greece even though she told me she had just come back from visiting them.
When we finished our house tour and came back to the foyer, Stuart had finished his gardening, changed his clothes and joined us in the foyer. He offered us to have a look at the stables that were formally classrooms for students who studied in this place from 1863 to 1883 and lived on the property away from their families for most of the year.
There were photos of boys of all ages on the wall of the classroom. Some of them were as young as seven years old and among them were famous Australians like John Peter Russell and H.H. Massie.
It was like Garroorigang had stopped in time with all those old books and carvings on the desks by students. There were even student name labels still on the desks!
“This is a good location for movie making!” I was thinking when Stuart’s voice brought me back to the 21st century!
He invited us to go back inside the house where we sat around the table and Anna went to the kitchen to prepare tea. Stuart started asking all these repetitive questions about when and why we moved to Australia and then told us about his Persian paintings and the times he spent in Iran. He sounded like he had quite a pleasant time there!
Anna joined us with tea and pastries when Stuart started talking about an appreciation letter he got from an Iranian organization when he left Iran. The letter was written in beautiful cursive Farsi writing on a paper with intricately illustrated borders and a hand-made wooden frame called khatam. He mentioned that he had never known the meaning of the words written in the letter. He then asked me if I could translate it for him, “Of course, I can”, I replied.
The purpose of the letter was to thank Stuart for the help and assistance he provided to facilitate a sporting event that took place between Australian and Iranian teams. The letter was written in a very formal respectful language.
He didn’t seem surprised by the meaning of the letter. It was as if he had already predicted its content but was only now absolutely confident in his prediction.
It was time for us to leave. We thanked them for their hospitality and promised to invite them to our home and make Iranian food since Stuart missed it so much.
Anna was kind enough to give some of those pomegranates to my daughter while complimenting her on her beauty and patience.
We left the property and the nice couple behind to go back home to Canberra in our old white Maxima. “How small is this world and how short is our time on it!” I thought whilst looking at the beautiful blue sky which hadn’t changed a bit since the beginning of time!